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Distress calls from unprepared hikers are rocketing, warn rescuers

Mountain rescue helicopter
(Image credit: Getty)

Mountain rescue teams and the National Park Service are warning hikers to take extra care when exploring the backcountry due to a surge in calls to walkers in distress.

Part of the problem is the extreme heat currently affecting much of the US, which is taking many hikers and campers by surprise, As Backpacker (opens in new tab) reports, officials at Canyonlands National Park have issued a warning after a hiker was reported late back from a short hike, and later found dead

The exact cause of the person's death is still being investigated, but the NPS has issued a statement (opens in new tab) strongly urging visitors to plan ahead for extreme heat. "All hikers should ensure they are drinking plenty of fluids, eating snacks, traveling in the early morning hours, resting during the heat of the day, and dressing appropriately for the weather," the service said.

Pack for the weather

However, not everywhere is experiencing blistering heat, and it's crucial that you research the weather conditions you're likely to be facing. In Vermont, a search and rescue organization reports that emergency callouts have almost doubled in recent years. WCAX (opens in new tab) spoke to Tom Rogers, of Stowe Mountain Rescue, who advised that preparation is essential – and you should be prepared for weather that's very different to conditions back home.

 “Always, always bring appropriate clothing and food and water when you’re out in the backcountry," Rogers said. "And one of the big ones is to make sure that your phone is well charged. A day can turn rainy or breezy or cold really quickly. Most of the people that we’re treating - even in Vermont in the summertime - do have some symptoms of hypothermia."

Last month, two hikers from Texas (opens in new tab) were caught out by cold and wet conditions in Colorado, and had to be rescued after developing hypothermia in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Lake Como.

The pair hiked regularly in their home state, but didn't understand why it was so cold and wet when they travelled elsewhere, 

"Ignorance kills,” a spokesperson for Alamosa Volunteer Search and Rescue said after saving the hikers. "These hikers were highly unprepared. They had no extra clothing and no way to stay dry in their tent, with no rain fly."

Before heading out, always make sure that you check the weather forecast for your destination, and look for any local weather warnings so you know what to expect and can plan accordingly. For more advice, see our guide how to plan a backpacking adventure.

Cat Ellis
Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).